Today I am serving up quick reviews of three books I’ve read recently. We’ve got one memoir and two story collections. Spoiler: I thoroughly enjoyed all of them, but the only things they have in common is that I’ve read them and they all have blue on their covers.
1) Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs, by Dave Holmes
My discovery of this book was a rambling path from the Sewers of Paris podcast (Episode 113 features Dave Holmes) to the Homophilia* podcast (Holmes is one of the cohosts) to putting it on Christmas lists (I’m cheap) to buying it as a gift for myself (gifts constitute an exception to cheap rules). I am a sucker for brand solidarity, but I am especially a sucker for queer memoirs, and this book conveniently ticks off both. Party of One is a deeply charming, self-aware dive into the neuroses of growing up in the closet and navigating a way out. Set to a soundtrack of pop hits, Holmes approaches lighthearted anecdote and existential crisis with the same borderline self-deprecating humor and huge heart. He comes across as all too aware that life is messy and ridiculous, and that it takes both risk and luck to move things in the right direction. In the end, though, Holmes’s message is a hope-filled, “It gets better.” It takes time, work, and life forcing you to learn lessons that you really should already know… but it does get better.
* You can read about both Sewers of Paris and Homophilia in my list of favorite podcasts from 2017.
2) Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View
Forty stories from forty writers, from the point of view of forty separate side characters telling the story of Star Wars: A New Hope. While overall a fun ride, the sheer scope of the collection pretty much guarantees a hit-or-miss experience depending on your preferences. There’s a range of genres exploring everyday life on Tatooine, daily life on the Death Star, and the stress of enlisting in an outgunned Rebellion, but the strongest pieces lean into the universe to craft distinctive style and voice. For example, Glen Weldon’s “Of MSE-6 and Men” tells of a secret affair between a Death Star officer and a trooper from the perspective of the maintenance and repair mouse droid that carries messages between them. It’s stylized, gay, and ends with grand pathos. Also from the archives of the Death Star, the pairing of Beth Revis’s “Fully Operational” – in which General Cassio Tagge reacts to the Scarif affair and watches Vader Force-choke a colleague – and Mallory Ortberg’s “An Incident Report” – wherein Admiral Motti writes a strongly worded letter after being choked – is a sublime editorial move capturing gravitas and humor. Ultimately, if you’re a Star Wars fan, the collection is an enjoyable expansion of the universe with a group of powerhouse writers. Chances are high there’s something you’ll like.
3) All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown
The Moth is one of my favorite organizations. Dedicated to community and the power of personal storytelling, they host events around the world for people to get on stage and tell true stories of their lives. Though I’ve not been able to attend an event, I do listen to their podcast, which is a guaranteed source of laughter, tears, and hope in humanity. All These Wonders is a collection of Moth stories, transcribed and cleaned up for print. If you’re already familiar with The Moth, then some of the stories in the collection will no doubt be familiar. Reading them in print is like restarting an old conversation with a friend and walking away re-inspired. If you’re all new to The Moth, then you’re in for humor, wisdom, life advice you didn’t know you needed, and a whole lot of feelings. And when you’re done, or as you’re reading, browse the archives at themoth.org to fall even further in love.
And that’s a wrap! Have an excellent reading week!